After leaving Capernaum, we visited Kursi. Kursi is below the Golan Heights, on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. The story is found in the following gospels: Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8. Jesus has just crossed the Sea of Galilee, and had come ashore. He is met with a crazy man filled with demons. Jesus in his mercy heals the man, the demons are commanded to leave and end up going into a herd of pigs (around 2,000). The now demon-mad pigs run off the cliff and drown.
Kursi was discovered in the 1970’s when a piece of pottery was found, and when more excavations were done, the ruins of a Byzantine Monastery, and a chapel built in a cave were uncovered.
After leaving Kursi, we got stuck in a traffic jam, caused by a car accident, however that gave me good time to cool down as I was feeling rather light headed with the heat. The air conditioning of the bus was magic! We drove on to the Jordan River to visit another baptismal site (the one on the Israeli side – near Bethany), and I bought a prayer shawl and some small menora candlesticks. The rams horns were pretty expensive, but very beautiful!
It was then off to Magdala – these ruins were found in 2006. A whole community was found – market, houses, fishing pools, Jewish ritual purification baths, a first Century synagogue…which is one the Jesus would have most likely visited. People have been astonished to find such extensive remains of a village.
“In the 4th century AD Helena, Constantine’s mother, ordered a Christian Church to be built on the site of what was believed to be the home of Mary Magdalene. As late as the 10th century, Christian sources continue to write of a church in the village which was also Mary Magdalene’s house.”2019 Study tour notes
The synagogue was a huge find, as it is believed to be the oldest synagogue in the Galilee area. In this synagogue, they found what is called the Magdala stone. On the stone is engraved a Menora (seven branched candlestick from the temple), which is believed to be the oldest carving of a temple item outside of Jerusalem. So this place would have had a very strong Jewish presence, in the era of the second temple. (King Solomon built the first temple in 10th Century BC, and Herod ordered the building / reconstruction of the second temple around 515 BC).
Outside are also these interesting information boards depicting Jesus’ ministry in the area, maps showing synagogues in the area in Jesus time and historical references to Magdala.
We went into the “Duc in Altum” – a Catholic church that was build recently as a monument. Inside the church is an atrium dedicated to women, and there are eight pillars. 7 pillars represent women of the Bible, with the 7th being Mary Magdelene. The 8th pillar is to “honours women of faith of all time”.
Also near the atrium is an alter with a huge fishing boat, with a window behind it overlooking the Sea of Galilee. A beautiful symbol, which summarises a lot of Jesus’ ministry while around these shores. There is a lot of art work in these little side rooms, depicting the Bible stories, especially the disciples.
Passing through the atrium, we went down some stairs into this room called the “Chapel of the Encounter”. When we entered the room, and were face to face with this incredible painting, so moving. It is a painting of the woman who had a bleeding disease for many years, who touched Jesus garment and was healed, but the artist has focused on the point where she touched Jesus cloak. The feet in the painting were just so striking, an image that will stay in etched in my mind.
We listened to the stories of Mary Magdalene, and the woman healed by touching Jesus’ robe, retold beautifully by our guide, and then collectively we prayed. What a moving time of prayer, recommitment and praise to the abundant love and mercy Jesus showed in this story. Jessel, then started us singing ‘It is well with my soul’. Wow, very memorable, very inspiring, and moving. The Holy Spirit was present and powerful as we considered Jesus’ ministry!
The story of the healing of the woman is found in Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-45. The story in Mark says the following:
“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.
Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
I particularly like the Message version: “Just then a woman who had haemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.” Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well.” The woman was well from then on.” – Matthew 9:20-22
This woman was an outcast, a social outcast and because of Jewish law a spiritual outcast. Not only was she physically sick, but also rejected by society, possibly even by her family. If the woman touched any Jew this would have made the Jew ceremonially unclean as she was bleeding. So, the act of touching Jesus – the master teacher, would have brought a few gasps from the Pharisees (teachers of the Old Testament law) who would have been part of the crowd pressing around Jesus. This woman, (according to the Jewish law), was about to make Jesus unclean, and himself, an outcast! However the beauty of this story, and the whole gospel message is that when she touched Jesus garment, his purity overrode everything, and she was instantly made clean. Her courage and step of faith had not just made her clean physically, but socially, mentally and spiritually. His perfection check-mated her perceived uncleanliness – and the perceived uncleanliness by onlookers (according to the law). His grace covered her totally. Praise God!
I ended this beautiful day reflecting on these stories of Jesus’ grace and ministry by paddling my feet in the Sea of Galilee at sunset. I was also praising God that he got me through today without being sick! What a compassionate and grace-giving God we serve and live by every day.